30 Most Common Tourist Scams in Costa Rica

Safety at San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Jacó, Heredia, Liberia, Puerto Limón, Quesada
Note: If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. World Nomads Travel Insurance, backed by Lonely Planet & National Geographic, is one we recommend. Check it out before your adventure.

 

Image source: ticotimes.net – Andrés Madrigal

 

If you are looking for gorgeous areas of jungle, romantic eco lodges and the famous cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica in Central America is the place for you.

Here, you can also travel to the beaches, enjoy the rolling surf in Salsa Brava and Tamarindo, hike volcanoes, visit coffee haciendas in the highlands of Central Valley and check out colonial architecture in cities like San Jose!

Unfortunately, Costa Rica has a high violent crime rate though this is often drug related and does not involve foreigners.

Scams and petty crime are however common in tourist areas, so read on to learn how to protect yourself here!

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. Unofficial tour operators

Image source: backroads.com

 

How it works:

At tourist spots in La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio and Playas del Coco for instance, you will encounter many street touts.

Some touts will try to sell you a tour at a very cheap price. To secure your position, you have to make an upfront payment.

When you arrive at the tour meeting point you will find out that no such tour exists.

If the tour exists, you would probably be brought to shops where they get a commission, rather than the places promised initially.

 

What to do:

Engage a licensed, reputable tours and activities operator which you can find via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Costa Rica with low price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

To determine if an operator is legitimate, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

When paying:

  • Avoid paying in full upfront unless through a reputable platform / operator.
  • If using an online platform, do not make payment off the platform.

 

2. Fraudulent park guides

Costa Rica volcano

Costa Rica volcano

 

How it works:

At national parks such as Manuel Antonio, Ostional and Cahuita, you will again find many tour guide touts who will offer to take you on a tour of jungle areas at a cheap price.

What happens is usually a low quality tour, an unsafe tour, or simply being brought to a secluded place and then robbed.

 

What to do:

Many of the national parks in Costa Rica have their own licensed guides who are the only ones allowed to work in the park legally.

As such only book a licensed guide when you go trekking and ask to see their credentials or permit.

If you are not sure where to go to find one, there are three channels you can check out as mentioned earlier:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Costa Rica with low price guarantee
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

Do not go hiking with anyone who tells you they are a ‘freelance’ guide as they may be a scammer.

 

3. Children with palm leaves

 

How it works:

This occurs in Guanacaste right at the border with Nicaragua where boys walk around holding armfuls of palm leaves.

They will approach tourists, giving you one and when you accept, they will want to be given some money for it.

 

What to do:

Decline.

 

4. Fake border crossing agent

Image source: unevensidewalks.com

 

How it works:

Some of the scams you are likely to encounter in Penas Blancas at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua include:

  • Being charged for the normally free custom / immigration form.
  • Someone offering to assist with the immigration process. The guy might tamper with your documents and force you to pay otherwise you won’t cross the border.
  • They could also take you to wrong offices or fake officers, and then charge you for their services.

 

What to do:

Decline any assistance and direct your questions to an immigration official or ask fellow tourists.

When travelling solo, try and link up with others for the border crossing.

 

5. Drug planting

San Jose

San Jose. Source: enchanting-costarica.com

 

How it works:

This is usually pulled off by two guys in San Jose on tourists.

The two, who speak English and pretend to be from the US will engage tourists asking them which part of the US they come from.

Once the conversation starts flowing, they are likely to offer you some free weed or secretly plant it on you.

They will then inform you that they are undercover cops and will force you to head to an ATM and withdraw money to pay them to let you go.

 

What to do:

If you have not obviously broken the law, be very skeptical when a “police officer” approaches you.

Three steps you can use to shake them off:

  • Verify badges and identification. Threaten to call the police hotline (end of this article).
  • Never give your passport if asked. Show only a photocopy of it.
  • If they want to fine you or check your bags, insist to only do so at a police station (use your GPS to find it or check with a local) with a lawyer or someone from your embassy.

In such cases, it is also useful to have a cheap spare wallet with little cash inside, while hiding the rest of your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch.

This way, the scammers might simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash on you.

 

6. Drink or food spiking

Image source: costaricajourneys.com

 

How it works:

As part of this scam you will be offered food or drink which has been laced with drugs that will render you incapacitated.

When you are no longer aware of your surroundings the scammers will take you to a secluded place or back to your hotel room and you will then be robbed of your possessions.

Drink spiking can occur in bars and nightclubs in San Jose, Tamarindo, Jaco, Quepos, Manuel Antonia, Tarcoles River, Puerto Viejo and Cahuita.

 

What to do:

Do not accept any drinks that you have not seen made in front of you.

Also, do not leave your drink unattended as this gives a scammer time to slip something into it.

Choosing canned or bottled drinks is a good choice as it is more difficult for someone to put a sedative inside.

Finally, do not flaunt your valuables. Leave them in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe which you can further secure with hotel safety tools.

 

7. Spilling scam

Costa Rica outdoors

Costa Rica outdoors

 

How it works:

A common scam globally (e.g. Brazil, Austria, UAE), this takes the form of thieves who “spill” something on your clothes such as ketchup or mustard and then point out the stain to you.

The Good Samaritan will then forcefully help you mop up even if you were to say no.

As they are doing so they will take the opportunity to pick your pocket.

There are a number of twists on this scam such as throwing sand at you and then brushing it off while also stealing from you.

 

What to do:

Push away anyone who tries to help you and get to a safe, empty space quickly.

In the process, check if you still have your valuables.

Ideally, for valuables brought out, we recommend storing them in an anti-theft bag or a money belt or hidden pouch to make it impossible to steal from you.

For other valuables, secure them in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe with hotel safety tools.

 

8. Dropped money scam

Image source: costa-rica-guide.com

 

How it works:

This can happen in areas in crowded tourist areas in San Jose as well as Manuel Antonio, Quepos, Tamarindo, Jaco and Puerto Viejo.

A scammer drops a wad of money in front of you and then keeps walking, pretending that they have not noticed.

They are relying on the fact that you will pick the money up and will then immediately return and accuse you of stealing it.

As you are distracted and arguing with them, an accomplice will pick your pocket.

A twist on this scam is that an accomplice picks the money up and asks if it belongs to you.

As you are discussing this, and perhaps checking your wallet, the first scammer comes back and accuses you of stealing the money.

 

What to do:

If you see someone obviously drop a large amount of money in front of you on the streets it is probably a scam and best to ignore it.

Or if someone comes up to you asks if a wad of money belongs to you, or offers to split the money, then this is definitely a scam.

Decline and leave the area immediately.

 

9. Overcharging restaurants

Image source: YouTube – Aden Films

 

How it works:

Restaurant scams can occur in areas in San Jose or beach resorts frequented by tourists.

There are many ways you can be overcharged at a restaurant:

  • Only shown tourist menus with higher prices; or menus with no prices.
  • Hidden / small footnotes in another language about additional fees and charges.
  • Deceptive pricing based on weight.
  • Under-weighing food items that go by weight.
  • Bringing food and drinks to your table which you did not order.
  • Not providing an itemized bill and adding items you did not order to the bill.
  • Waiters bringing and opening expensive bottled water only for this to turn out to be tap water.

 

What to do:

Avoid restaurants promoted by aggressive touts.

Instead, do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on recommended places locals go to eat at.

Do not accept any extra items that you did not order and refuse any sub-standard products such as bottled water that you think has been tampered with.

Check the menu carefully before your meal and check your bill carefully after your meal.

However, if researching is too much of a hassle, you can also consider joining a fun local food tour!

  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Costa Rica.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operator: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

 

10. Inflated tourist prices

 

How it works:

It is common in Costa Rica for tourists to be expected to pay higher prices than locals.

This happens in bars, restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops including local markets.

 

What to do:

When shopping for souvenirs and in markets, understand that it is common practice to bargain hard for items.

Sellers know this and deliberately inflate the prices to double or triple what they are worth, expecting you to bargain them down

Else, a few other options are:

  • Use local connections: get a local to bring you around.
  • Fixed price shops: slightly higher prices than average, but you won’t be ripped off.
  • Shopping tour through Viator (largest platform of day tours globally and in Costa Rica): get a professional guide to bring you around.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Airport transport intercept

Image source: The Tico Times – Alberto Font

 

How it works:

At San Jose airport, if you have pre-arranged transport, you may fall for this scam.

There are crooks who hang around the “arrivals” area who will intercept and ask if you have pre-arranged transport.

If you have but have not seen them yet, the crook will offer to help you call the company.

He will tell the company that he will be bringing you to your destination instead.

Next he will tell you that your pre-arranged transport has broken and will take hours to reach. Instead of waiting, he can bring you to your destination.

 

What to do:

Be extremely careful when encountering these “overly friendly” strangers.

 

2. Airport luggage porter

 

How it works:

This is similar to the airport transport intercept, but slightly different.

There are porters who will go around the carpark looking at names written on placards by transport providers waiting for their guests.

They then hang around at the arrivals area to try to intercept you, and then ask for a tip after they have brought you to the carpark.

 

What to do:

Avoid helpful strangers and touts.

If you are lost, simply check with a counter staff, or call the driver of your pre-arranged transport.

 

3. Unofficial taxi express kidnappings

 

How it works:

“Express kidnappings” is a rising problem, particularly at the ports of Limon and Puntarenas, and the Coca-Cola Bus Station and inner downtown district of San Jose.

Visitors have been kidnapped, often while driving in unlicensed taxis known as “taxis piratas”.

They are then forced to go to an ATM machine and withdraw funds to ensure their release.

You may be held for hours for the ATM daily withdrawal limit to reset so that they can clean out you savings.

Your family may also be contacted and told to transfer funds via a money transfer service like Western Union.

 

What to do:

Get an official taxi:

  • Avoid hailing a taxi off the streets, especially if alone at night. Ask your hotel / restaurant to help call for one.
  • Official taxis are red and have a yellow triangle painted on the sides.
  • Their car plate number indicates the province they are allowed to operate in / licensed to work at. E.g. plate with TSJ can work in San Jose, TH can work in Heredia, etc.
  • From San Jose Airport, the taxis are orange and you can buy a taxi voucher from an official booth.

It may be a good idea to keep a separate bank account just for traveling:

  • Do not keep too much cash in there.
  • Only carry a bank card of that account so that even if kidnapped or if the card is stolen, you would not have much to lose.

Also, do get travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) for two key purposes:

  • Monetary compensation for any loss of valuables.
  • Medical coverage in case you are assaulted

Finally, other options you can consider include:

  • Engaging a private driver / vehicle pick-up through your hotel / hostel or through day tour platforms like Viator (largest globally and in Costa Rica).
  • Getting a rental car through AutoEurope – over 60 years of industry experience, super reliable with best price guarantee.
  • Using a taxi booking app like Easy Taxi or Uber.

 

4. Broken meter taxis

Image source: costaricantimes.com

 

How it works:

By law all taxi drivers in Costa Rica must use a meter.

Many however will tell you that the meter is broken or will not have one installed. This is especially prevalent in Puerto Viejo.

They will then offer you a flat rate which is much higher than the fare would be if the driver used a meter.

 

What to do:

If you find a taxi driver who refuses to use a meter then simple refuse to get in the vehicle and find a different taxi driver who will.

Alternatively, you can negotiate if the driver if you have done your research and know the fair rate:

  • Check with your hotel / hostel staff.
  • Use an online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Or use a taxi booking app (e.g. Easy Taxi, Uber).

 

5. Short changing taxi drivers

 

How it works:

This usually happens if you hand over a large bill.

They will take the money and then feign a distraction such as pretending to drop it.

As they pick it up they will switch it with a bill of a lower denomination and tell you that you have underpaid them.

Another trick is to simply hand you back the incorrect change. Besides taxis, small businesses may engage in this as well.

 

What to do:

Try to familiarize yourself with the currency which is the colon. This way it will be easier to tell if you have been short changed.

Also do not feel like you need to take your change quickly without counting it.

Take as much time as you need to check that it is correct.

 

6. Long taxi routes

Image source: qcostarica.com – Jorge Navarro

 

How it works:

Should a taxi begrudgingly accept to use the meter, they may try to inflate the fare by driving you on a long route around town before taking you to your final destination.

Another option they could take is to drive you through traffic jams to inflate the fare.

 

What to do:

First, especially for long routes, make sure to estimate the fair price by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like Easy Taxi and Uber.

In the cab, be very clear when communicating the destination you are heading to, or you can mention the more prominent landmarks.

During the route, check your phone’s GPS to make sure you are headed in the correct direction.

Note that sometimes, drivers do take detours to avoid traffic jams, but that should not detract from the correct general direction.

 

7. Rigged taxi meter

 

How it works:

As the name suggests, the taxi meter either jumps too fast for the distance travelled or for the time travelled.

 

What to do:

Watch the meter during the trip.

If you suspect something is amiss, make sure to take down the license certification and car plate number of the taxi and threaten to call the police.

 

8. Unofficial car park attendants

Image source: mytanfeet.com

 

How it works:

This is common around national parks, wildlife parks and other popular destinations.

The scammers will advise you to park your vehicle a good distance away from the actual or nearest carparks and then charge you a fee for their “guidance”.

                                                                                                                              

What to do:

Ideally, use GPS so you can get to the official car park.

Should you find it weird that someone is trying to divert you away, look out to see if there is any accident, obstruction or debris ahead.

If the coast is clear, just drive ahead.

 

9. Gas station scams

Image source: costa-rica-guide.com

 

How it works:

In 2014, a major newspaper did an experiment at gas stations in Costa Rica and found that they were subjected to one scam or another 70% of the time.

All gas stations in Costa Rica have an attendant to pump your gas and so a common scam is to ‘forget’ to set the machine to zero before pumping the gas.

Others to watch out for include:

  • Watered down gas.
  • Charging more.
  • Giving back less change than required.

 

What to do:

Always ask the attendant to set the pump to zero before they start pumping the gas for you.

Also make sure to check your change as gas station attendants are known for short-changing patrons.

 

10. Corrupt traffic police

 

How it works:

Corrupt police officers who work at checkpoints will basically stop rental cars, and find something to fine them over.

They will threaten to fine you a large amount to be paid at a police station far away.

Alternatively, pay them a small amount and they will let you go.

 

What to do:

If you drive, follow all laws and make sure to bring your driving license along.

Hide your cash and valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

This may allow you to negotiate the bribe down when you show that you have not much cash on you.

 

11. Staged car accidents

 

How it works:

Staged car accidents are a rising problem in Costa Rica.

They take the form of a car deliberately rear ending or crashing into you.

The driver will get out to apologize and while you are distracted an accomplice will steal your valuables from your car.

They may also simply get out of the car as if to check that you are not injured and then rob you on the spot, often with a knife or gun.

 

What to do:

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, if you are in an accident in Costa Rica it is better not to stop on the scene.

Drive straight to the nearest police station and ask them to deal with the issue.

 

12. Slashed tires

 

How it works:

Tire slashing is a common issue in Costa Rica.

Scammers target rentals cars which are often easily identifiable due to the stickers in the windows.

They will slash the tires and follow you and wait for the tire to blow out.

The scam is then to offer to help you change the tire and while you are distracted, steal your valuables from your car.

A twist on this is thieves driving up to your car and leaning out of the window and slashing the tires with a long knife and then following you to rob you.

 

What to do:

If you find that your tires have been deliberately slashed, beware of anyone who may offer to help you.

Drive to the nearest garage and seek professional help to change a tire if possible.

In the event that you do need roadside assistance, secure all your valuables before accepting help:

If someone slashes your tires when you are at a traffic light then keep all doors and windows locked and drive to a safe place such as a police station.

 

13. Car break-ins

 

How it works:

Car break-ins can happen on busy streets such as Hermosa Beach even with people walking by.

You will come back and find someone has broken into the car and your valuables like camera equipment, money, clothes and documents are all gone.

 

What to do:

Ensure that your car doors are locked and windows are up.

Do not leave any valuables / items indicating that you are a tourist exposed in the car:

Finally, get travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) for two key purposes:

  • Monetary compensation for any loss of valuables.
  • Medical coverage in case you are assaulted.

 

14. Buses not operating

Image source: costaricantimes.com

 

How it works:

At the San Jose Airport, while searching or waiting for a bus to San Jose, a taxi driver will inform you that buses are not operating today or that the buses are all fully booked.

He will then try selling you a seat in cab for a ridiculously high price.

This is also very widespread in San Jose around 7-10 bus station.

 

What to do:

Decline the offer and head to the bus station to confirm for yourself.

This can also happen with hotels.

The taxi driver may tell you that the hotel is already overbooked and suggests another place where he gets a commission.

Do not do so. Only book through legitimate platforms such as:

  • Booking.com: Frommer’s tests have found the site to offer the best selection and rates amongst competing sites most of the time.
  • Homestay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Costa Rica by staying with a local host!

 

15. Bus thefts

 

How it works:

Theft on buses is a common problem particularly on buses heading out to the banana plantations around Limon.

Thieves will wait for you to fall asleep and then remove your luggage from the overhead compartments.

A twist on this is where thieves will stage a distraction such as pretending to fall over in the aisle of the bus or spilling a drink on you.

They will then use this as a cover to steal your valuables, often with an accomplice.

 

What to do:

To make it impossible for thieves to steal your bags, here are some steps you can take:

  • Keep your bag on your lap / beside you instead of in the overhead compartment.
  • Should you wish to take a nap, use a TSA lock, luggage strap or cable ties to lock your bag and to lock the bag to yourself / your seat.
  • Or simply get a lockable anti-theft bag that comes with a mechanism to lock to yourself / your seat.
  • Hide small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Finally, get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) to cover loss of bags / valuables within.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Snatch theft

San Isidro de Heredia

San Isidro de Heredia. Source: delapuravida.com

 

How it works:

Snatch theft is a rising problem in Costa Rica in beach areas, national parks, and the downtown area of San Jose.

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.

 

What to do:

At crowded places, even seemingly safe places like at a restaurant or hotel:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Do not carry valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.
  • Avoid wearing obvious jewelry which can be easily ripped off.

Other protection measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers loss of valuables).

 

2. ATM scams

 

How it works:

This is more commonly found in San Jose. Generally, ATMs can be rigged in two ways.

First, the card skimmer and pinhole camera / keypad overlay set up:

  • A card skimmer is installed over the card slot to capture your card details.
  • As for the pinhole camera / keypad overlay, it is used to capture your PIN but in different ways.

Second, the card trap:

  • Scammers can use cheap tools to rig the card slot to trap your card.
  • When you find your card stuck, they will come over and act as a helpful soul, and ask you to retype your PIN to make the card come out.
  • Obviously, your card will still be trapped, but the scammer will have now seen your PIN.
  • Should you head into the bank or somewhere else to seek help, the scammer will unblock your card and escape.

 

What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only those in controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area for suspicious looking characters, look out for red flags of a rigged ATM and cover your PIN when typing it in.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet.

That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

3. Credit card fraud

 

How it works:

This can be an issue in Costa Rica if you pay for items in a small, less reputable shop, bar or restaurant with a credit card.

When it’s time to pay, the seller will bring you a hand held credit card machine.

They will then watch you key in your details and will memorize your PIN number.

When they take the machine back to the cash register to process the transaction they will then use your card (which is still in the machine) and will input your PIN number again to make further transactions without your knowledge.

 

What to do:

Avoid using hand held credit or debit card machine in a shop or restaurant if possible.

In the event that you have to use one of these machines, make sure to conceal your PIN number from staff and do not let them take your card out of your sight.

If they insist on taking the machine back to the main terminal then follow them and complete your transaction while standing next to them.

 

4. Street money exchange

 

How it works:

Often the source of counterfeit currency in Costa Rica is street money changers that have both counterfeit US dollars and Costa Rican colon.

Besides peddling fake currency, these shady money changers have various tricks to overcharge you too, such as:

  • Charging an additional, unadvertised commission.
  • Giving fewer bills hoping you don’t check.

 

What to do:

It is very difficult to tell if bills are fake by touching or looking at them.

As such it is best to avoid changing money at street money changers to reduce the risk of being handed counterfeit currency.

Always change money in banks, at ATMs or at large reputable hotels. They may have a less favorable rate of exchange but the money is most likely not going to be fake.

 

5. Timeshare scam

Image source: bookvip.com

 

How it works:

You might find street touts trying to lure you to a timeshare presentation with free meals and drinks.

Should you accept, you will be brought to a “boiler room” subject to hard sell over a few hours.

 

What to do:

Decline the offers, nothing is free.

If you do accept, then eat / drink and leave, but this at the expense of a few hours of your vacation time.

However, if you are really interested in timeshare apartments, only commit after conducting extensive due diligence, not through a tout on the street.

 

D. KEY SAFETY ISSUES

This is not meant to be a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:

 

1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Image source: smartraveller.gov.au

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: although those targeted at foreigners are uncommon, it is increasing and is a concern.
  • Hazards: n.a.
  • Hotspots: see below for crime hotspots.
  • Terrorism: no recent history, but should not be taken for granted.
  • Civil unrest: demonstrations may occur.

 

What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, travelling alone at night, and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid participating in demonstrations.

Some hotspots of violent crime to avoid / be careful at:

  • Beach areas and on the main highways in the Central Valley region.
  • Central neighborhood in Limon.
  • Liberia city.
  • Desamparados neighborhood in San Rafael.
  • Pavas and Hospital neighborhoods San Jose.
  • Puerto Viejo.

 

2. Medical care

Image source: medicaltourismcostarica.com

 

How it works:

Generally high standards in San Jose, but limited outside.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: zika, dengue, chikungunya, malaria (rare).
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis.
  • Animal borne disease: rabies.

 

What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: Hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, malaria, rabies.

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.

 

3. Natural disasters

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Volcanoes: 16 volcanoes, with 2 near San Jose and 1 in the northwest reportedly more active in 2018.
  • Earthquakes: can trigger tsunamis, last major one in November 2017.
  • Rainy season: April to October, can cause flooding and landslides. Areas to be wary include Limon, Puntarenas, Guanacaste.
  • Hurricane: June to November.

 

What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reportsweather forecasts and sources such as

Reacting to one:

  • Volcanic eruption: avoid areas downwind and river valleys downstream of the volcano, do not drive in heavy ash fall, seek shelter (if no need to evacuate) or high ground if no shelter (crouch down away from volcano, cover head with arms).
  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture); expect aftershocks.
  • Tsunamis: signs include abnormal ocean activity and load roars. Protect yourself from an earthquake first if there is one. Else, get to a high ground as far inland as possible.
  • Hurricanes: stay indoors away from windows, do not use electrical appliances / equipment, do not head out and touch debris (more injuries / deaths happen after than during).

 

4. Transport safety

 

How it works:

Unfortunately, Costa Rica has one of the highest traffic accident rates globally.

Some points to watch out for:

  • Not adhering to traffic laws.
  • Potholes, sharp curves, lack of traffic signs, narrow unpaved roads.
  • Motorists driving without lights at night.
  • Flooding and landslides during rainy season (San José and Guapiles on the way to Limón; the new San Jose / Caldera Highway).

 

What to do:

Make sure your travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) covers travel accidents.

Driving:

  • Only getting a rental car via legitimate platforms (e.g. AutoEurope – over 60 years of industry experience, super reliable with best price guarantee).
  • Check latest media reports and weather forecast.
  • Stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up.

 

E.GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Image source: qcostarica.com

 

  • General emergency hotline: 911
  • Fire brigade: 118
  • Ambulance: 128

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